It was strange first full week in the Cubs system. There were a lot of great performances and some pretty streaky ones at that. The big difference between week one and two was that the weather improved greatly. Gone was the snow and wind and in were temps in the 70s.
To be honest, after the first three games of the year, I didn’t know how this team would win a game. The starting pitching eventually improved after having a combined ERA of over 16. This week saw Ryan Williams return to his norm with a 5 inning performance and he only allowed 1 run. His ERA went from 18+ to 7.88. Pierce Johnson looked very good in his first start of the year until he took a ball off his forearm. He finished the inning and was then removed. In his three innings of work, Johnson K’d 5 but walked three. Tyler Ihrig stepped up and filled the shoes of the recently released Eric Jokisch and went four innings with one earned run. As for the offense, Willson Contreras and Dan Vogelbach continue to carry the team offensively with both hitting 400+.
Tennessee: This Week 2-5
This is a team that has thee most talent in the Cubs’ system. It’s all there – starting pitching, bullpen, and hitting. They are just not firing on all cylinders yet. So far this season, Blackburn, Skulina, and Markey have looked outstanding. So did Jen-Ho Tseng before a minor injury got him after three innings. Corey Black looked very good in his first two outings and then had trouble this week. Gerardo Concepcion and David Garner have been throwing darts in the bullpen while Josh Conway and Andury Acevedo have struggled. Chesny Young looked like a world beater for the first five games and then went hitless for three straight games. Billy McKinney has yet to get it going while Bijan Rademacher hasn’t stopped. Jeimer Candelario is off to an odd start and seems to be starting to get it together including premiering at first base last night.
This team has trouble scoring runs. On Friday night, Trevor Clifton did not have his best stuff and went 4.2 innings, yet he had only given up one run when he left the game. Still, Clifton got no run support. At one point last year, he only received 1.67 runs a game. The pitching has been Jekyll and Hyde. Dave Berg and James Farris have been outstanding. The offense struggles. Other than Rashad Crawford and Yasiel Balaguert, no one is hitting or getting on a base at a very good clip on a consistent basis. As a team, they were hitting .216 going into Saturday night’s game where they pounded out ten hits. That has to improve if this team is going to win. Jonathan Martinez, Jake Stinnett, and Zach Hedges are looking very good to solid this year. Their team ERA is an amazing 2.97. Erick Leal looked great last night going 5 innings and getting 7 Ks. He was the runner up for the pitcher of the week.
South Bend: This Week 3-3
The inconsistency and errors showed up for this team this week. They won the first three games of the week, two in walk off fashion, and then preceded to get plowed in three straight games at Fort Wayne. They were outscored 34-6 in three games. Ouch! Preston Morrison had a very good second start earlier this week. He went six innings and gave up 2 runs. Donnie Dewees had 4 games in a row with at least two hits before going hitless on Friday. Eloy went 4-5 Monday with walk-off HR and then sort of disappeared for the week along with Eddy Martinez. The team ERA ballooned to 5.49 as a result of the week. As a very young team with a lot of 19-21 year old players, they will have to develop some consistency and procedures to get ready each day. Their pitching, which we lauded here in the preseason, is not even close to levels the players have produced at in the past. Yet, they still won three games and lost three games. For me, this level is all about development. And based on the last three games, there’s a lot that needs developed.
Extended Spring Training
Dylan Cease pitched three innings this week. I think that’s about all that matters…no, wait. Duane Underwood pitched 4.2 innings and Jeremy Null saw some action, too. Yesterday, Bryan Hudson was outstanding going 3 hitless innings with 4 Ks. I don’t know how much Hudson and Cease are going to be challenged at Eugene when the time comes.
Pitcher: Paul Blackburn – So far, two starts, 0.82 ERA. This week he went 6 innings, allowed 4 hits, did not let a run cross and struck out 6. The fact that this is happening for him at this level is great. After a bad spring at Myrtle Beach, a little DL stint followed and he had an outstanding second half in 2015. He picked right up where he left off.
Hitter: Bijan Rademacher of the hitting .478 Rademachers. What a week he had as he is pushing the limit of what he can do to get on the field. It’s a crowded outfield in Tennessee with Billy McKinney, Mark Zagunis, and Jacob Hannemann to compete with for playing time. But Rademacher is outdoing them all and getting walks, too. His OBP is an astonishing .586..
Reliever: Greyfer Eregua – South Bend seems to have a monopoly on this award. While David Berg and David Garner shined in short spurts for Myrtle Beach, Greyfer Eregua went a little bit longer than an inning. In the past week, 6.1 innings, no runs, 4 Ks.
Team of the Week: Iowa Cubs – They were the only affiliate to post a winning record at 4-3.